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In The Beginning

by Margaret Fieland

In The Beginning

My mother was thirty-seven when I was born in 1946, which for the time was unusually late for a first child. It was years before I knew her true age: when I was in elementary school she took ten years off her age. She later claimed it was because she was afraid my sister and I would be nervous, as the (much younger) parents of a couple of our friends had died unexpectedly. When I asked one of my cousins about this years later she admitted that they had known and had kept the secret. I was bummed. I was also mad at myself for not figuring the whole thing out. I'd had all the data: my grandmother's age, the age my grandmother was when my mother was born, and my mother's age. They didn't add up. I figured that much out, but was unable to come to the now obvious conclusion: my mother had lied about her age.

She carried it off well, as in fact she looked younger than her actual age. Late gray hair runs in the family: by the time she died at 75 her hair was gray (not white) but it was still dark right up through my teen years.

We learned the truth when my sister when for working papers. She had to bring in her birth certificate; my mother didn't want to hand it over. I still wonder if Shelley would have looked the certificate over so carefully if my mother had played it cool. But she didn't, so Shelley took a very close look at it when she finally got hold of it. She confronted my mother that evening. I remember finding the whole thing for some odd reason very funny, as did my sister.

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